A year ago I asked you to “take two minutes, that’s all, and remember that over 100,000 (mostly) young men (a good many young women, too and some older people ~ Lieutenant Commander Frank Campbell was 39 when he was killed in action over 75 years ago, Brigadier John Lawson was 54) went overseas to fight in Canada’s wars, and never came home. Millions of Canadians went to war but 100,000+ are buried in “some foreign field” or, as with most sailors and many aircrew, have no known grave at all. They did not die fighting in their wars, nor were they your wars, they were Canada’s wars, from 1899 until 2014, and many young men and women are still overseas, today, ready to fight again if needed.“
Today I am asking again, but not for two minutes, just for a few seconds, in your own home or at your workplace, but not at a cenotaph because I want you all to be safe, to remember strangers. I hope they’re all strangers; I hope none of you grew up with no father ~ but I know many Canadian youngsters, whose fathers and mothers were killed in Afghanistan or who died as result of illness or wounds, often mental wounds that could not be healed, are doing that this year. I hope none of you lost a husband or wife or a daughter or son, or a brother or sister or a good friend. But I know some of readers are grieving the loss of comrades-in-arms today and I know that the bonds of “comradeship” in the military, every military, can be stronger than those of blood.
A year ago I asked you, please: “Don’t think about fighting or courage or democracy or anything like that, just think, please about loss ~ a mother’s loss, a wife’s loss and, in a way, our entire civilization’s loss.” Just for a second or two, just think …
… and, please, no flags, no patriotism, no nationalism. One of the Boers killed by Canadians at Paardeberg might have become a great artist, one of the Germans killed by Canadians at Vimy Ridge might have won the Nobel Prize, one of the Japanese killed by the Canadians in hopeless defence of Hong Kong might have developed a cure for cancer, and one of the Afghans killed by Canadians at Panjwaii might, today, be leading the peace process in that sad, shattered country. All lives matter; too many good men and women have fought and died for bad causes throughout recorded history, and too many good men and women died for good causes, too. Just remember them all, please.
“The tumult and the shouting dies; The Captains and the Kings depart: Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice, An humble and a contrite heart … Lest we forget … “
… today, at least, let’s not forget.